r face cleared amazingly. “I’m so glad,” she said in a relieved tone. “I suppose I seem fussy48, but now and then the problem of help gets to be a regular nightmare. Once or twice lately I’ve been afraid I was making a terrible mess of things, and might, after all, have to accept one of the offers I’ve had for the ranch. I should hate dreadfully to leave here, but if I can’t make it pay–“
She finished with a shrug49. Stratton regarded her thoughtfully. “You’ve had several offers?” he asked hesitatingly, wondering whether she would think the question an impertinence.
Apparently she didn’t. “Two; really most awfully50 good ones. Indeed, Tex strongly advised me to sell out and buy another outfit21 if I still wanted to ranch. But I don’t want another one. It’s the Shoe-Bar I’m so keen about because of– But I really mustn’t keep you. Thank you so much for relieving my mind. When Tex comes in I’ll tell him he was mistaken.”
Buck hesitated for an instant. “It might be better not to say anything about it,” he suggested. “Some foremen don’t like the least bit of interference, you know. Suppose we just let it go, and if he brings up the subject to me, I’ll tell him he got me wrong.”
“Very well. It doesn’t make any difference so long as you’re staying. Good-by.”
With a little gesture of farewell, she walked away toward the ranch-house, leaving Stratton to return to where McCabe fidgeted beside the horses. There was no time for deliberate reasoning or planning. Buck only felt sure that Lynch was up to something underhand, and when Slim, with almost too great a casualness, inquired what it was all about, he obeyed a strong impulse and lied.